Migrant Workers Left Out of NAFTA

On July 17, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published a list of objectives for the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) — a transnational migrant rights organization dedicated to ensuring access to justice for Mexico-based migrant workers — released the following statement:

“Today, the President backtracked on migrant workers’ rights by omitting migrant worker protections from his objectives for the NAFTA renegotiation. While we welcome the inclusion of labor protections as part of the agreement rather than a side accord, CDM is outraged that the President has left migrant workers out.

“Through formal comments and testimony, CDM has actively engaged the administration in an effort to ensure workers’ rights are strengthened in this renegotiation. Migrant leaders and NAFTA petitioners Adareli Ponce Hernandez and Leonardo Cortez Vitela testified before the administration, offering their first-hand experience with the failures of the current system. CDM, petitioners, and allies have recommended that the renegotiated NAFTA:

  • Include the current NAFTA labor principles, as well as additional protections for internationally recruited workers, such as freedom from economic coercion, ability to change employers, and a pathway to citizenship;
  • Eliminate barriers to accessing justice and benefits, such as legal services, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and workers’ compensation;
  • Include clear, accessible, and enforceable labor dispute resolution timelines and a transparent process; and
  • Broadly interpret the trade-related standard in order to effectuate the complaint mechanism for migrant workers.

“CDM has filed two official complaints under NAFTA’s existing labor side agreement after the U.S. government failed to enforce and monitor compliance with its own labor laws. The current complaint and dispute mechanism leaves workers to languish for years without remedy. The shortcomings of the existing process shed light on critical improvements that could be made in the renegotiation of NAFTA. Today, the President also missed an opportunity to present concrete process improvements, like strict timeliness for resolution of labor disputes.

“We are angered by the President’s decision to ignore our recommendations based on our combined decades of experience advocating with migrant workers. CDM will continue to advocate for fair policies, organize with allies across borders, and ensure migrant workers’ voices are heard during the renegotiation process. Our dissatisfaction only fuels our motivation to fight for migrant justice.”

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About CDM
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) envisions a world where migrant workers’ rights are respected and laws and policies reflect their voices. CDM empowers Mexico-based migrant workers to defend and protect their rights as they move between their home communities in Mexico and their workplaces in the United States through education, outreach, and leadership development; intake, evaluation, and referral services; litigation support and direct representation; and policy advocacy. Read more about CDM at www.cdmigrante.org.

Media Contact
Evy Peña
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM)
From Mexico: 01-800-590-1773; From the US: 1-855-234-9699 // evy@cdmigrante.org